E is for Ellu / Sesame seeds | Recipe for Ellu Saadham / Sesame Rice
Padhinettam Perukku_, also called Aadi Perukku, is celebrated on the 18th day of the Tamil month, Aadi (mid-July to mid-August roughly), indicating the start of monsoons.
Padhinettu means 18 and Perukku means 'rising' and on this day, the rivers are swollen with water from the rains. I've heard stories from my great-grandmother on how they would pack tiffin carriers full of different kinds of rice dishes and enjoy a picnic on the banks of the village river.
The different rice varieties are prepared as an offering for the river goddess. Lemon rice, coconut rice, tamarind rice, sweet rice, curd rice and of course my favourite, sesame rice are some of the types of rice dishes prepared on this day.
Of course, in smaller families in the city, families choose to prepare 2-3 kinds of rice along with meal finale-ie. curd rice. Even to this day, my family believes that on this day, there will always be heavy rainfall, and co-incidence or whatever, the rain gods do stick to their predictions!
Since when I was a child, I was a fan of all the rice varieties- or kalandha saadham as it is called in Tamil. Usually, there would be a koottu and some plain rice too along with these on the menu and of course, fried appalams and vadams to go with the kalandha saadham.
Although sesame is quite a complex flavour, I have been in love with all dishes made using sesame seeds, right since childhood. Ellu-urundai or sesame seed chikki (praline) shaped as balls are prepared on the srardham (thevasam) days to remember the deceased ancestors.
As a kid, I have asked my grandmother why she made this only on those special days. Needless to say, my such questions were not appreciated in those days :D Subbu's Kitchen writes more on the thevasam recipes that includes my favourite, ellu-urundai
A few years ago, when I was on a holiday in Hong Kong, I fell in love with black sesame seed ice cream. I had never imagined that this could be an ice cream flavour!
Sesame seeds also feature in this special dish called Thalagam, also made on specific festival day called Thiruvadharai. The toasted sesame seeds are ground to a paste along with roasted coconut, udad dal, fenugreek seeds, rice and red chillies to make an intensely fragrant masala.
This makes the 'curry' really thick without any addition of dal. Think of it as a sambar variety minus the dal and completely unique flavours.
The only way to taste this is to invite yourself to a Tambrahm friend's house or make it yourself. I don't think there are any restaurants that have this on their menu.
Coming to the recipe of Ellu Saadham, sesame seeds are dry roasted till they pop. This is ground to a coarse powder with some other spices, to prepare the mix. Rice is steamed and cooled and to the cooled rice, the freshly prepared podi is added and gently mixed together.
The tadka of curry leaves and red chillies with some udad dal for crunch is of course mandatory :)
Recipe for Ellu Saadham / Sesame Rice
- While cooking the rice, ensure that you use lesser water and reduce cooking time slightly so that the grains are separate. Once cooked, spread out to cool on a large plate / thali.
- In a small kadai, using a few drops of oil, fry the red chillies and udad dal till the dal is golden is colour. Remove and keep aside. In the same kadai, sauté the sesame seeds until they emit a nice aroma and start popping.
- Once the popping stops, remove them along with the fried chillies and udad dal and grind to a coarse powder in the mixer along with 1/2 tsp of salt.
- Spread this powder on the cooked rice.
- In the same kadai, heat the oil for tempering. Once oil is hot, add mustard seeds, udad dal, curry leaves – once mustard seeds pop and udad dal is golden, transfer on the rice.
- Gently toss around with a flat steel spatula (so that rice is not mashed up) until the rice is coated with the spices. Serve hot along with fried vadams or appalams (papad) and a raita on the side.
This post is a part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge.
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